One day after his weekly Monday press conference, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen again took place in the Big Ten coaches teleconference on Tuesday. As usual with two similar media appearances on back-to-back days, Andersen didn't necessarily have much news to report. There were some interesting questions and answers, though, so let's run through the highlights. You can also listen to the full audio of Andersen's session right here.
Highlights from Bowling Green
Quick overview of a huge victory for us, obviously. A lot of good things that happened in that game. I think individual performances, Melvin [Gordon] was fantastic. Sam Arneson played his best game overall from a tight end standpoint. His physicality, his ability to catch the ball was fantastic. I thought that Tanner [McEvoy] took steps in the right direction, was very good.
The offensive line, the tight ends, a young fullback in Austin Ramesh -- the way they blocked, the way they stayed on people and gave our running backs the opportunity -- the quarterback being successful running the ball was fantastic to see.
On the defensive side, Derek Landsich had a very good game. He was very solid in lining up the young defense. No. 2, he was very good in the run game. No. 3, he was a great havoc blitzing and causing some problems. We knew we had to try to get that offense off-pace with a lot ofdifferent strategies. The kids did an excellent job of implementing the game plan and playing very, very hard.
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There were some situations in that game when it was a four-point game, we turned the ball over. You had the offense, defense and the special teams all react in a positive way. We went three-and-out on defense, had a great punt return by Kenzel Doe. Kenzel had a fantastic day in his returns. And then the offense came back and scored on the first play after a big punt return, which flipped the game in our favor.
Very proud of the kids. It was a team effort with some tremendous individual games for certain young men.
How important is it to you that a potential recruit have a sincere interest in the academics that your university offers, and have you ever pulled up on a kid at any stop in your career who maybe didn't care as much about that as you're looking for?
It's huge at Wisconsin. The ability to want to get a world-class degree is something that you have to want. It's something that's going to carry you through the rest of your life. It's not a belief that we have, it's a fact that it does.
For us, it's a big part of the recruiting process that a young man wants to be involved in that type of academic situation for him. Absolutely, we track every young man to make sure -- wherever I've been as a coach from my times back in 1-AA football -- you always want to make sure that the young men want to succeed, or at least have a goal to take a step forward and get a degree at whatever institution that may be. A little bit more of an emphasis is put on that here at Wisconsin, no question.
The days of just a blocking tight end or just a pass-catching tight end, they might be gone. What do you think of how that position has evolved? What might the model look like and play like come 2020?
For us, he has to be able to block. He has to be physical, smart to be involved in the run game and deal with all the different looks within our own run game. But then they are a big part of our play-action game.
Year after year after year, they've got to be able to catch the ball down the middle. They've got to be tough-minded to be able to go up and get that ball not knowing where the defenders are. The'y've got to have good hands and run the proper routes to understand defenses.
I think the evolution of the tight end position is exactly what we're playing with right now. A young man that can be involved in the run game -- assuming that's what you do on offense, you run the ball -- you also ask them to be involved in some aspects of the spread, which we do now. And we also ask them to catch the football, [and be] a well-rounded young man that has the athletic ability to catch and do things for you in the throw game, but also has the physical toughness and the mental toughness to be able to be a blocker in the power schemes and the zone schemes.
How have you seen Tanner McEvoy progress since the LSU game?
Tanner's progressed every week from the LSU game. There was tough sledding against a very good defense for a lot of reasons, not just with Tanner's situation but the whole offense. He progressed in the Western Illinois game and made some plays with his arm and with his legs. I think this last week, it kind of came together for him even a little bit more. He showed again what he can do with his athletic ability that he has. I don't think any quarterback can go through a football game and say he threw every ball exactly the way he wanted to. It's important for Tanner to continue to improve in the throw game. He's made some tremendous throws, and he has a couple he'd like to be able to get back. He'll continue to work and grind on that. I think he throws the ball very well and we expect him to throw the ball very, very well.
Maybe the biggest improvement is just the comfort, the knowledge, the game-time experience he's had in checking our run game. He was fantastic at checking the run game last week and getting the offense into the best pre-snap look. So his pre-snap awareness, I would say, is his biggest area where he's gained knowledge and game experience in the last 10, 14 days.
How much does Derek Landisch change or dictate what you're able to do with the defensive scheme?
We were aggressive in a lot of different looks, mentally, for these kids. Not just Derek, but I think this last game plan had a lot of different feels to it and a lot of different responsibilities. The defense as a whole handled the call sheet very well, which in turn gives [defensive coordinator Dave] Aranda great confidence in moving from package to package, and also gives him great confidence in expanding the call sheet.
Derek's handled that well. He's a great practice player as far as holding the kids responsible to do the right things in practice, which is good to see. But you saw him on blitz this last week, and he's very good at it. We will continue to involve him in a lot of different ways to whether we're bringing four, five, six and sometimes even three. He'll be involved in rushing now as he's shown through the first three games that he can be a very talented blitzer.
What improvement have you seen from freshman safety Lubern Figaro?
Game experience is huge for freshmen. Getting in the moment and understanding. I would go back to it -- that's a term I maybe use too much -- but his pre-snap awareness is fantastic. His partner back there with him, Michael Caputo, has done a great job of getting Lubern lined up. That load is being lessened now on Michael and it's going more to Lubern's court. Lubern is accepting that responsibility and handling it well. The pick that he made, he did a tremendous job of getting in his spot. The ball was tipped by Derek, but [Figaro] was where he was supposed to be and had an opportunity to make a play and he did. He's becoming a better tackler.
He understands the fits in the run game without being too aggressive. You always want your safety to be in a position to be able to make tackles but also not be in a position to not make a tackle if something breaks out in a bad scenario for the defense.
He's definitely progressing. Long ways to go, but he's a smart, intelligent young man that has mentally handled it and physically handled it very well to this point.
Has Tanner talked about how playing free safety last year and being the quarterback of the defense helped him be the quarterback of the offense?
Yeah, that has definitely helped Tanner. I haven't had an individual conversation with him, but in passing through all of last spring and throughout the summer and fall camp scenarios, Andy Ludwig, our offensive coordinator, has told me many times that [McEvoy] sees things a little bit different than kids may see in a quarterback room or even different than a coordinator may see it, sometimes, because of that experience on the defensive side last year. I believe it helps him. From my conversations I've had with Tanner and Andy, I think it definitely is giving him an advantage at times because he had the experience of playing safety in our defense, which is a fairly complicated defense. I would say it's an advantage for Tanner.